When the weather cools off, comfort-food cravings ignite. This is the time when the humble potato gets some well-deserved attention. Potatoes are, in fact, Colorado’s largest vegetable crop which puts the state in the top five producers in the country. Denver chefs have plenty of local varieties to work with – red, russet and gold – thanks to an abundant summer and fall potato harvest. Here a handful of creative plates for the Colorado spud.
Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
650 S. Colorado Blvd.
Glendale, CO 80246
Jax Fish House’s newest location in Glendale is as fresh and bright as a day by the sea. The new concept for the restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows, large open spaces and a creative new menu of fresh seafood, raw oyster and seafood bar and small plates. A small plate with a retro vibe is the housemade potato chips with a jar of pimiento cheese dip. Diners of a certain age will recall pimiento cheese spread sandwiches from youth. This is one, even two steps, above those childhood food memories. Salty chips and smooth red pepper dip are a perfect pairing with a cocktail or a starter to whet your appetite for fresh seafood. Another potato dish to consider is the mashed potatoes with horseradish. It’s a great side with a generous serving of salmon, scallops or snapper.
1610 Raven St.
Denver, CO 80202
Al Lado, the small-plate gathering place with big Latin flavors, has two not-to-miss potato dishes, patatas bravas and crispy croquettas.Both are so good that it’s hard to choose, so order one of each. The patatas bravas includes crispy, tiny potatoes with spicy chorizo and a deep red smoked-chipotle Romesco sauce. When they are fried, they are a cross between fries and fried mashed potatoes. The other equally good dish are the croquettas. These are so good, you will know why every Latin tapas bar has its own version. Al Lado’s have crispy outsides, velvety mashed potato interiors and salty Serrano ham with a sofrito tomato sauce.
Humboldt Farm (credit: Kimberly Lord Stewart)
1700 Humboldt St.
Denver, CO 80218
This new restaurant by Concept Restaurant group on 17th and Humboldt puts new life in the old Strings restaurant location. The sleek Colorado bistro is home to an eclectic menu of Colorado ingredients including the state-grown potato from White Mountain Farms (legend has it that Julia Child loved these potatoes). Chef DJ Nagle has two potato dishes that make magic with White Mountain potatoes, Kennebec fries and truffle mashed. The Kennebec fries are topped with a pepperoncini aioli, with just the right tang and heat to make them addictive. Try them as an appetizer or with an aged sirloin. White truffle oil gives Humboldt’s mashed potatoes and extra dose of richness. Order them as a side dish to the Niman Ranch pork tenderloin.
523 E. 17th Ave.
Denver, CO 80218
If you want mashed potatoes and gravy like mom makes, invite yourself over for dinner or go to Steuben’s. Real mashed potatoes with a brown gravy fill one half of the fried chicken plate. It’s the same for the meatloaf platter. Or leave the meat and chicken out and just order the mashed with gravy. And while you’re at it, invite mom to go with you, she could use a night out.
Tom’s Urban 24
1460 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80202
Late night or any time of day or night, Tom’s Urban 24′s smothered sweet potato fries are Southwestern comfort food. The platter comes piled high with crispy fries, topped with a smooth Fontina and sharp goat cheese and peppered with roasted green chiles. Better yet, Tom’s is open 24/7, so you can have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
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Kimberly Lord Stewart is a food author and journalist for CBS Denver local, Organic Food Reporter for Examiner.com, and the Food, Wine and Spirits editor for Denver Life magazine. Her book, “Eating Between the Lines” tells readers about the truth and myths of food labeling. Stewart is the recipient of two Association of Food Journalist awards for food news reporting and the Jessie Neal Business Journalism award. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.